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OpenAutoLab lets you automatically develop photos at home

Arduino TeamJanuary 3rd, 2024

20 years ago, you could walk into any pharmacy or big box store with your rolls of film, then get developed photos back within 24 hours at a reasonable price. But that industry is dead and life is much more difficult for film photographers today. While big chain pharmacies still have developing services, they have to send the film out to a lab and it is quite an expensive. One alternative is to build the OpenAutoLab, which can automatically develop black-and-white and color film photos without user interruption.

The OpenAutoLab machine only develops film and so you’ll still need to turn elsewhere to get your prints, but it makes the process much easier to perform at home. It handles most of the steps you would need to do in a dark room, so you aren’t fumbling around with baths and washes. It pumps the chemicals back and forth as needed and, most importantly, maintains the ideal temperature and performs periodic agitation.

An Arduino Nano board is responsible for most of the process control. It opens and closes the valves and operates the pump. It monitors each reservoir with a load cell and HX711 amplifier or float switch, moving the liquids back and forth at specific times according to the user-set parameters. Interestingly, the designers chose to use a sous vide stick to maintain temperature and circulate the bath. That’s a clever idea, because those sous vide sticks are very affordable and quite precise. 

OpenAutoLab is intended to be a more affordable alternative to the Jobo Autolab and it appears to have promise. Documentation is sparse at the moment and we aren’t sure how well it works, but brave photographers can use the build instructions to try out OpenAutoLab right now.


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